Yes, we have speciality dishes and desserts like the set dosa and Mysore bonda and Mysore pak. But is there anything truly unique to Mysore called the “Mysore Cuisine?” like say Goan cuisine or Mughlai?
The surprising claim is “yes” and it comes from the mouth of Mohideen Sultan, the corporate chef at the Orchid Park Plaza in Bangalore, who will soon become the first chef to obtain a doctorate in heritage cuisine from Delhi University, and who devotes a whole chapter in his dissertation to Tipu Sultan.
In the latest issue of Simply Bangalore, the supplement which comes with India Today magazine once a month, Mohideen speaks of his curiosity about the Tiger of Mysore.
“I’ve been fascinated by Tipu Sultan for many years. Books and chronicles only illustrate his bravery and his exploits in war. I’ve always wondered what it must take for a man to have been at war for 18 years out of the 20 years of his rule… About the strength and immunity required for a life like that and where it must have come from,” Mohideen tells Nirmala Ravindran.
Mohideen thinks, in fact he is convinced, that it was the food that Tipu as well as his army ate that sustained them for so long. Just what they ate, Mohideen doesn’t quite say in the story titled Sultan’s Savouries. But he speaks of the biryanis that the royal families consumed to the mutton gravy that was specially cooked overnight for the soldiers to the fruit-based dishes that worked as health guards.
Mohideen believes that natural herbs and ayurvedic concoctions too could have kept the armies soldiering on.
“Today, we have vaccinations, immunisations and so many ways of protecting ourselves. It is my belief that in the old days food was their only protection.
“Natural herbs like tulsi (basil) sometimes used in kababs work as antioxidants fighting against free radicals in the body. The power of ayurveda is not to be undermined. This was more prevalnt in the cuisine in the south than in other parts of the country.
“Let me give you another example, sandalwood and coconut water sherbet with rose petals is unique to Karnataka.It not only cools the body but also works on improving the immune system.”
Mohideen’s current favourite is the mutton nahari, which he says is a speciality of the Muslim community not just in Mysore but all over.
Whether Tipu had a weakness for this, and whether his mental and physical strength came from it, is for some scholar/historian to tell us, but a little known fact about Tipu is that he left his last meal unfinished.
Upon the entry of the British troops, Tipu is believed to have got up from his meal and gone to battle, never to return.